Philadelphia Eagles

Don't be so quick to write off Nelson Agholor

Don't be so quick to write off Nelson Agholor

Nelson Agholor isn’t worried about making mistakes anymore.

He knows he’s going to make them. It’s part of the game. And he’s confident he knows how to fix them this year.

“The best thing in Year 2 compared to Year 1 is after Year 1, you’ve made the mistakes,” Agholor said Wednesday. “Now you’re not worried about if you’re going to make them, you’re worried about just lining up again and trying to make the next play.”

Agholor received criticism for his less-than-stellar stats in his rookie year, when he compiled just 283 receiving yards and one touchdown. However, plenty of standout receivers had quiet rookie seasons.

Antonio Brown had just 167 yards and zero touchdowns his rookie year. Brandon Marshall had 309 yards and two touchdowns his first year. As a rookie, Demaryius Thomas had 283 yards and two touchdowns, very similar stats to Agholor. And all three were in the top 10 in the NFL last year in receiving yards.

Additionally, the Eagles’ all-time leader in receiving yards, Harold Carmichael, had just 288 yards and no touchdowns as a rookie. Mike Quick, second among wide receivers in yards in franchise history, had 156 yards and one touchdown his first year.

Essentially, sometimes it takes a year or two for a receiver to begin making a big impact; it doesn’t always happen immediately. The pressure for the 2015 class may have been greater after all five wide receivers taken in the first round the year before (Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin) had good rookie years, but that isn’t a common occurrence.

And Agholor actually fared pretty well among the six receivers taken in the first round in 2015. He ranked third in receptions and receiving yards and was tied for third in touchdowns. Considering guys like Kevin White and Breshad Perriman missed the whole season with injuries, comparatively, Agholor’s season wasn’t really all that disappointing.

However, Agholor said he doesn’t really care if rookie receivers get too much criticism.

“It’s none of my business, man,” he said. “I have a job to go out there and help this team win football games. That’s what I have to strive to do every day I’m out on this practice field and every opportunity I get.”

According to SportingCharts, Agholor had four drops last year on 44 targets, tied for the eighth-highest drop rate among receivers with at least 40 targets.

Drops aren’t necessarily a sign of a lack of skill or ability. Instead, they often can be because of a lack in concentration or focus caused by uncertainty — something common in rookies in a new offense.

“I’m sure you can ask anyone,” Sam Bradford said, “I can imagine any time you’re a young player, it doesn’t matter what position they’re playing, you’re still in that process where you’re thinking a lot.”

Which Agholor was.

“I played with a little more hesitation because I was thinking,” he said. “I was thinking, I was trying a little bit too much. I just need to go out and fly around and have faith in my preparation.”

But now he’s no longer a rookie, so ideally the pro game will come more naturally. On the other hand, he’s once again learning a new offense.

“When you’re out there thinking a lot it slows you down,” said veteran wideout Rueben Randle, a second-round pick in 2012. “You can’t just go out there and play fast because you make mistakes, and more importantly, you drop balls. There’s a lot that’s going on out there, you just have to use your natural ability, for the most part, once you understand your assignment.”

Randle’s production doubled from Year 1 to Year 2, from 19 receptions for 298 yards and three touchdowns to 41 for 611 and six.

“I definitely have to progress in Year 2 from Year 1, definitely,” Agholor said. “That’s one thing that’s on my mind, it’s a constant goal from the way I approach the game with my confidence and my practice habits. So I’m definitely going to do that.”

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz grateful Jake Elliott 'saved my butt'

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USA Today Images

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz grateful Jake Elliott 'saved my butt'

Zach Ertz was sitting in the locker next to Brent Celek after the game and at one point he leaned over to his teammate and said simply, "Thank God we won that game."

Because if the Eagles lost Sunday, Ertz would have been the goat.

Ertz had one of the tougher games of his career Sunday, with a costly fourth-quarter fumble that led to a game-tying Giants touchdown and also a dropped touchdown when he was wide open, although he did make up for that by catching a TD one play later.

"It sucks," Ertz said. "If we lost that game, I would have been in the dumpster."

Ertz, covered all day by Landon Collins, one of the NFL's best safeties, did catch eight passes for 55 yards and his first touchdown of the year in the Eagles' wild 27-24 win over the Giants at the Linc (see observations).

The fumble was only the third of his five-year career. That's three fumbles out of 268 receptions.

"The guy made a great play," Ertz said. "I was trying to gain some more yards after the catch, and he kind of just reached around and pulled my arm down and I fumbled. 

"I've got to work on ball security, something I'm going to emphasize this week. I've had (three) fumbles in my career, so I'm not going to over-think it, but at the end of the day, I've got to do better."

Ertz's last fumble came in a loss to the Redskins in December of 2015, forced by Bashaud Breeland and recovered by Dashon Goldson. That was Chip Kelly's final game as Eagles head coach.

His only other fumble came in a loss to the 49ers in San Francisco in 2014.

"I've never seen Darren Sproles fumble, and he fumbled last week, so it's going to happen if you play long enough in the NFL," Ertz said. "All you can do is work on it. Luckily, Jake (Elliott) saved my butt."

The end zone drop came with the Eagles up 7-0 in the third quarter. Wentz could have taken a little steam off the football, but it was still a ball Ertz should catch.

"I couldn't get my hands up fast enough," he said. "The linebacker flashed before me and the ball just kind of snuck up on me, kind of like what happened against the Redskins last year. 

"Luckily, came back the next play and I was able to make a much tougher catch."

Even on a bad day, Ertz still caught eight passes, and he's now second in the NFL with 21 receptions, five behind Antonio Brown. He's also 10th with 245 yards. Both numbers lead all NFL tight ends.

“With a guy like Zach, we know who he is," Wentz said. "Those mistakes don’t happen often. 

"That first ball I definitely threw it harder than it needed to be, and it kind of surprised him a little bit. We came right back to him, and that was huge. 

"I know with a guy like that, confidence is never going to go anywhere, and my confidence in him never is either. The fumble is one of those things you brush off and come right back to him. The guy made some great plays for us today.”

Ertz's 21 receptions are fourth-most in Eagles history after three games and seventh-most ever by any NFL tight end after three games.

Ertz has now played the equivalent of four full seasons in his career, and his 268 catches are seventh-most ever by a tight end after 64 games.

Most importantly, his five catches, 55 yards and touchdown against the Giants Sunday helped the Eagles knock off a division opponent and find their way to 2-1. 

“Last year we didn’t have a lot of wins (in) adverse situations like we faced today," Ertz said. "We weren’t perfect today, anybody in our division is not going to be perfect. But I think it showed a lot about our resilience today and overcoming adverse situations."

Eagles Injury Update: Darren Sproles tore ACL, broke arm on same play

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Associated Press

Eagles Injury Update: Darren Sproles tore ACL, broke arm on same play

Still riding high after a crazy win on Sunday, the Eagles got some bad news the next morning. 

Darren Sproles is done for the season. Maybe for his career. 

Sproles tore his ACL and broke his forearm on the same play on Sunday afternoon at the Linc. The play came early in the second quarter. It first looked like Sproles hurt his knee and was then kicked on his right wrist on the way down. 

ESPN first reported the story. Head coach Doug Pederson announced it at his press conference Monday afternoon. "Double whammy on the play," Pederson said. 

Pederson said the Eagles will likely make a corresponding roster move in the next couple of days. The Eagles started their season with five running backs on the roster but after losing Donnel Pumphrey and now Sproles, they're down to just three. Practice squad player Byron Marshall is a possible roster replacement. 

Sproles will have surgery on his arm on Monday and surgery on his knee later, per the ESPN report. 

The 34-year-old running back once said this would be his final NFL season but then backed off those comments when asked this summer. 

"We're gonna see," he said in June. "Right after we make the playoffs, then come back and ask me." 

It's possible Sproles' career is over, but it's also possible he'll try to make a comeback so his career doesn't end like this. 

After picking up 11 rushing yards on Sunday before leaving the game, Sproles now has 19,155 all-purpose yards in his career. That's the eighth most in NFL history. 

Pederson called the loss of Sproles "devastating" from a special teams aspect. In his absence on Sunday, Torrey Smith took over as the Eagles' punt returner. Smith tweeted after the game that he hasn't returned punts since high school.

"[Smith] has done it in practice in his past," Pederson said. "He's definitely a sure-handed guy back there so he's right now the next guy up." 

Pederson said Fletcher Cox (calf) and Jordan Hicks (ankle), who were both injured in the game, are "OK" but are still day to day.